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Talks are "continuing on a long-term deal that would keep" NHL games on NBC and Versus "for anywhere between four and seven years," according to a source cited by Stu Hackel of SI.com. There have been reports that a "bidding war is developing over the NHL's rights on both broadcast and cable," but there are "indications that NBC and Versus will hold onto the packages, although the rights fees will be steeper." There also have been reports that the "exclusive negotiating period between the NHL and Versus had expired although the NHL-NBC talks were still in a window of exclusivity." However, now that NBC and Versus are the "same entity, the Versus part of the deal is still very much alive as NBC is negotiating the new contract as a national broadcast and cable package." Hackel reported within the TV industry the "thinking is that NBC's retaining the rights to the NHL is crucial, not just to its effort to upgrade Versus, but also for the prestige of NBC Universal's new corporate structure and the new NBC Sports Group, as the NHL contract is their first deal to be negotiated." The source said Comcast-Spectacor and Flyers Chair Ed Snider "won't let the NHL leave" Versus and NBC. The source added that ESPN is "unlikely to win any part of the national cable package." Hackel noted with Versus and NBC "now negotiating as a unit, the NHL can claim its games are worth a good deal more than they were coming out of" the '04-05 lockout. NBC's ratings for last year's Blackhawks-Flyers Stanley Cup Final were the "highest in 13 years and the NHL has created some properties -- the Winter Classic, the Las Vegas-based awards show, for example, while enhancing others such as the All-Star Game -- that potentially make the new contract more valuable." An NHL owner said that he "expected the Versus part of the new deal to increase" 50% (SI.com, 2/8).
TNT and ESPN are "on track to turn in cable TV's most-watched NBA seasons ever," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. TNT is averaging a 1.5 U.S. rating for its coverage through Sunday, and its 27th season of NBA coverage "is on track to be its highest-rated ever, beating the 1995-96 season as the top-drawing season." TNT announcer Marv Albert yesterday in an online chat said that the ratings increase is due to the fact that the league "has a new villain" in the Heat. Albert: "Miami is the major factor that TV ratings are sky high. And as bad as (ESPN's) 'The Decision' show was ... you need a team you don't like" (USA TODAY, 2/9). TNT's 34 game telecasts to date are up 25% and 33%, respectively, from a 1.2 U.S. rating and 1.769 million viewers at the same point last year. Ad sales for the NBA on TNT are also pacing up 30% from the same point last year. NBA TV also continues to see ratings success, as the 14 games that have been part of the net's Tuesday "Fan Night" are averaging 384,000 viewers. The net for 55 games season-to-date is averaging 242,000 viewers, with the net's ad sales up 223%. Meanwhile, NBA games on ESPN are also seeing big gains heading towards the All-Star break. Through 44 games, ESPN is averaging a 1.3 U.S. rating and 2.026 million viewers, up 18.2% and 22.3%, respectively, from a 1.1 rating and 1.657 million viewers at the same point last year. ABC is also up through four telecasts, averaging a 4.4 rating (+33.3%) and 8.129 million viewers (+44.1%) (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
'10-11 NBA RATINGS, VIEWERSHIP TO DATENETGMSU.S. RATING% +/-VIEWERS (000)% +/-'09-10 GMSABC44.433.3%8,12944.1%4TNT341.525.0%2,35933.4%31ESPN441.318.2%2,02622.3%46NBA TV*550.2---242------
NOTE: NBA TV was not a Nielsen-rated network prior to the '10-11 NBA season.
HEAT RISING: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand notes local ratings for the NBA "so far this season are strong," as 16 teams "were posting ratings increases through January," with 11 posting declines. The Heat have "posted the biggest local TV ratings increase of all NBA teams through January," as Sun Sports is averaging a 5.4 local rating for its Heat telecasts, up 118% from last year. The 5.4 rating "ranks No. 3 in the league." Sun Sports is also averaging 85,000 HHs for its Heat telecasts, which is tied for fifth. FS West is averaging 287,000 HHs for its Lakers telecasts, marking the NBA's "biggest local audiences." The Lakers are followed by the Bulls, Celtics and Knicks (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/7 issue).TOP SIX NBA TEAMS IN LOCAL AUDIENCE
TEAM RSNHOUSEHOLDS Lakers FS West278,000 Bulls CSN Chicago141,000 Celtics CSN New England118,000 Knicks MSG115,000 Heat Sun Sports85,000 Spurs FS Southwest85,000BOTTOM SIX NBA TEAMS IN LOCAL AUDIENCE Nets YES22,000 Kings CSN California22,000 Thunder FS Oklahoma19,000 Grizzlies SportSouth17,000 Bucks FS Wisconsin16,000 Bobcats SportSouth11,000
NOTE: Data unavailable for the Hornets and Raptors.
Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez went "ballistic" after he "spotted himself and his girlfriend Cameron Diaz being shown" during Fox' broadcast of Super Bowl XLV Sunday night, according to a source cited by Bill Zwecker of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Fox showed Diaz "lovingly feeding popcorn into A-Rod's mouth" while sitting in a luxury suite. A source said, "He really went ballistic -- thinking the cameraman was out to get them in a paparazzi-like shot." Zwecker reported after that image was shown during the broadcast, Rodriguez "got a guarantee that he and Diaz would not be televised any further" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/8). Fox Sports VP/Communications Dan Bell yesterday said that he "was not aware of Rodriguez's expressing his displeasure to the network," though he did release a statement "stressing that Fox did not intend to make him look bad." Bell said, "These shots are purely random and were just used to show the audience all of the unique personalities who were in attendance. ... Alex has been nothing but tremendously gracious and cooperative to us throughout the years on our 'MLB on Fox' coverage, and we would never do anything to jeopardize that relationship" (NEWSDAY, 2/9).
SIMPLE SOLUTION: SportsNet N.Y.'s Chris Carlin discussed the Rodriguez story and said, "Hey dude, if you don't want to be on-camera, stay home on the couch. ... You could have avoided this" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 2/8).
The Orioles and WBAL-AM have signed a multiyear deal that makes WBAL the team's flagship radio station. WBAL will broadcast all 162 Orioles games during the '11 regular season, as well as select Spring Training games. Joe Angel and Fred Manfra will return as radio announcers (Orioles). In Baltimore, Ryan Sharrow noted WBAL will broadcast "at least 10 spring training games." The Orioles moved to WJZ-FM "before the start of the 2007 season ... after 19 years with WBAL." WJZ "had been involved in talks with the Orioles' to renew the deal" before the team went back to WBAL. WBAL GM & VP Ed Kiernan noted that the team's return to the station "will mark 41 out of the Orioles' 57 [seasons] their games have been broadcast on the 50,000-watt network." WBAL is also the flagship station for Ravens games, and Kiernan said that it was "too early to determine if some of the Orioles and Ravens games will overlap once football season begins in August." But Kiernan noted that Ravens games "also are broadcast on WBAL's sister station" WIYY-FM (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/8).
MENDING FENCES: In Baltimore, Dan Connolly writes the "three-year contract, which comes after the club shopped its radio rights for several months, is somewhat surprising considering the rocky parting between the Orioles and WBAL after the 2006 season as well as the trend among professional sports franchises to switch from high-wattage AM stations to multi-platform FM clusters." The "prevailing thought" was that the Orioles would stay with WJZ "when their four-year deal expired" at the conclusion of last season. Orioles Owner Peter Angelos and WJZ officials "engaged in several rounds of negotiations but were unable to hammer out a deal." Orioles Dir of Communications Greg Bader said of WBAL, "The signal strength, the coverage they provide, their news-reporting abilities are all exemplary. They were a great partner of ours for many years, and we are confident they will be a great partner of ours this year and for years to come." Connolly notes WBAL will have "pre- and post-game shows, but additional baseball programming has not been determined" (Baltimore SUN, 2/9).
Tina Johnson, the launch editor of Women's Health for Rodale, “has been tapped as the editor-in-chief" of espnW, its new "digital push for women over 18,” according to Keith Kelly of the N.Y. POST. espnW VP Laura Gentile said the initiative “started as a blog and will be officially launched as a full-fledged Web site in April.” ESPN has also hired Aimee Crawford as Editor-in-Chief of ESPN Rise for Girls, which “started in 2007 as a one-shot spin-off called Girl and grew into a five times a year magazine.” It currently has circulation of 500,000. Meanwhile, Kelly reports ESPN The Magazine is "getting ready to hit the road as part of its previously announced plan to relocate its publishing division from Midtown Manhattan to the sports network's headquarters in Bristol, Conn." Staffers said that they "had to let the brass know by mid-January if they were willing to make the move, slated for June 21." About 100 people in total are involved, but it is unclear "how many will actually make the jump" (N.Y. POST, 2/9).
Navigate Marketing President A.J. Maestas said that "assuming the Big 12 crumbles, Oklahoma's progress is sunny" due to the school's "capability for, and progress on, its own television network," according to Jake Trotter of the DAILY OKLAHOMAN. The Univ. of Texas "claims it will make a staggering $15 million a year off its ESPN deal" for its own network, though a "few million less at the outset as UT attempts to build its network from the ground up." Maestas said Oklahoma "would be fortunate to get half of that, and a third is probably more reasonable." Maestas: "That's not a knock on Oklahoma's fan base, that's just the economic reality of the population base." But he noted that the "true advantage of having a personal network ... isn't near-term economics." Instead, the "true advantage lies in the branding, recruiting, exposure and expansion of the Sooner footprint beyond state lines that will make OU all the more attractive to other conferences when the inevitable wave of conference realignment strikes again." Trotter wrote an OU network "inside Oklahoma would have its payoff," But the state "has limited TV sets" and OU has "the state's eyeballs on them already." Therefore, "maximizing the channel's full potential hinges on whether OU can somehow get the channel up and running on cable packages outside the state." Maestas: "The key is expanding the geographic influence. If they're smart, they'll charge small amounts of money to have it on the basic tier in other states" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 2/7).
NEXT IN LINE: In Honolulu, Ferd Lewis reported Oceanic Time Warner Cable is "moving toward the creation" of an "all-University of Hawaii channel on its statewide system." No date "was given for the debut, but signs point to the possibility of it being operational as soon as this fall." While UH athletic events "would be a mainstay of the new channel, sports features and classics [have] been discussed and an academic component would be included." There "may also be student involvement." Lewis noted Oceanic's current sports deal with UH runs through '14 and "guarantees UH a minimum of $2.3 million per year plus a share of revenues past certain thresholds" (HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, 2/8).
Ortegel had been appearing on Mavs
broadcasts for last 23 years
CUBS APPEAR TO BE DOWN TO TWO: In Chicago, Toni Ginnetti notes the Cubs’ search for a new radio analyst to replace the late Ron Santo “apparently has come down to Dave Otto and Keith Moreland, both former Cubs who have worked in the booth as fill-ins when Santo was sidelined.” Otto “worked as Santo’s most frequent substitute,” and “spent two seasons on the television side working with Chip Caray in 2001 and 2002 when Steve Stone was on a medical leave.” Moreland “has been the baseball broadcast analyst for his alma mater, the University of Texas, for 16 seasons and for Texas football for nine seasons.” A decision “may be a week or more away” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/9).
NOT DWELLING IN THE PAST: CBS NFL analyst Phil Simms said that he “doesn’t want to discuss his dustup with ESPN's Desmond Howard at a Super Bowl event and doesn't want 'to drag it on.'” Simms: "I'm sorry it happened; I really am. Even if it remained private, there's still nothing to be gained" (USA TODAY, 2/9). Howard after the confrontation “put up a series of tweets explaining the incident,” and Sirius XM Radio’s Chris Russo yesterday asked Simms if he “was annoyed by that.” Simms: “Well, of course I am. But it is what it is. It’s a great lesson learned. I’m not excusing myself. I’ve got to know better. It’s a new day and age” (N.Y. POST, 2/9).
BEST WISHES: In Cleveland, Mary Schmitt Boyer noted Cavaliers radio announcer Joe Tait “was able to move home to continue his rehabilitation from heart surgery and other health problems.” It is unknown “whether he will be able to return to the broadcast booth this season as he has hoped” (CLEVELAND.com, 2/8).
The Lions yesterday announced a new broadcast partnership with Detroit's WXYZ-ABC for the '11 season. The network will carry all four preseason games and pregame shows in HD, as well as an exclusive one-hour weekly pregame show. WXYZ also will air Monday night interviews with Lions coach Jim Schwartz and Thursday night interviews with Lions players. As part of the agreement, the Lions and WXYZ have formed a collaborative sales and marketing effort that allows both parties to provide advertising clients an array of media and in-stadium experiences to reach fans (Lions).
JUST AROUND THE CORNER: The Cubs will have eight Spring Training games "televised by Cubs broadcast partners" -- six by WGN and two by Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Eleven more Spring Training games will air on the Cubs radio network with 19 being broadcast "via internet radio broadcast at cubs.com." Cubs TV play-by-play announcer Len Kasper will join Mick Gillispie, radio broadcaster for the Double-A Southern League Tennessee Smokies, "for most of the cubs.com internet radio broadcasts" (DAILYHERALD.com, 2/8).
RISE AND FIRE: The Big Ten Network has launched a contest in which fans can pick a clip from a memorable game at BigTenNetwork.com and upload a video that includes them calling the game as they imagine announcer Gus Johnson would have called it. The network will select 10 submissions and put them to an Internet vote. The three winners will meet Johnson during the Big Ten men's basketball tournament next month (Big Ten Network).